Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1774-1814 - Mount Street (Mayfair)

Opera singer Giovanna Sestini was born in 1748/9 in Florence. Little is known about her early years. Between 1763 and 1766 Giovanna she sang in comic opera (opera buffa) in Florence, Padua, Venice, and other Italian cities. She then moved to Lisbon, where Italian singers were encouraged to re-establish the operatic tradition which had been devastated following the earthquake of 1755. She became a popular prima buffa at the Rua dos Condes theatre. There she met and married José Christiano Stocqueler, grandson of Christian Stockler, the Hamburg consul who settled in Portugal and changed the family name to Stocqueler. In the 1774/5 opera season Sestini was contracted as first buffa at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, where her brother Vincenzo Sestini became a wardrobe master and designer of dresses for opera and ballet. Giovanna made her London debut on 13 December 1774 as La Cecchina in a revival of Niccolò Piccinni’s popular comic opera La buona figliuola which became an instant success. She performed well over forty different roles at the King’s Theatre and the Theatre Royal. In 1780 she sang in concerts at the fashionable Pantheon, Oxford Street. With growing success the family gradually moved from lodgings near the Haymarket to Mount Street in Mayfair, while her retirement was spent at Broad Street Buildings, near Bishopsgate, where she died in July 1814.


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